Plane crash probe continues

By The Mercury

Authorities continued to sift through the wreckage of a single-engine propeller plane that crashed into a vacant home in Collinsville, Okla., Sunday, killing two Manhattan residents.

Family members confirmed the deaths of Dr. Ronald Marshall, a retired obstetrician who was piloting the plane, and Chris Gruber, who worked as a fund-raiser for the KSU Foundation.

The two were apparently returning from a gun show in Tulsa when the plane went down.

Federal Aviation officials referred questions related to the status of the investigation to the National Transportation Safety Board, which is in charge of investigating fatal crashes. NTSB officials did not immediately respond to inquiries regarding any findings as to the cause of the crash. There were unconfirmed reports that parts of the plane may have been found several miles distant from the crash site, suggesting the plane broke up in mid-air, but that could not be confirmed.

Gruber’s primary assignment with the foundation was as a fund-raiser for the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dean Ralph Richardson, of the K-State veterinary medicine college, worked with him for eight-and-a-half years. He said Gruber provided a “marvelous example” of leadership in his handling of both employees and potential donors.

“When people left Chris’s presence, they have been made to feel valued,” he said.

Richardson said he’ll also remember him as an active man who loved the outdoors as well as his family. “Everybody reflects on how much he loved his family,” he said. “It’s so true.”

Richardson said Gruber had a great sense of humor and an easy smile.

“He made people feel at home, welcomed and comfortable around him,” he said. “I’ve had countless emails over the past 24 hours that goes on and on about him.”

These emails have come from students, faculty and colleagues from other universities. One email said, “I wish that everyone got the chance to know him.”

“He was one of the really good guys,” said Richardson, who choked up after reading a particular email. “He was. He was a really good guy. He cared about others.”

Richardson said the veterinary college family will gather this afternoon to talk about how they’re feeling and remember Gruber’s life. “There will be a lot of expressions of appreciation,” he said.

Richardson recalled a recent, more joyous gathering for Gruber’s 40th birthday. He said the college got a hold of some of old pictures of Gruber and had laughs during the festivities.

“Those were good times,” Richardson said. “It just happened a few short months ago.”

The Mooney M20 that was being flown by Marshall is a family of piston-powered, single-engine propeller-driven general aviation aircraft, all featuring a low-wing and tricycle gear. It is manufactured by the Mooney Airplane Company.

Over the years, published reviews of the Mooney have generally rated it as a safe aircraft. A mid 1990s study conducted by the Airline Owners And Pilots Association found its safety rating to be slightly better than comparable single-engine aircraft, with about six accidents per 100 registered aircraft versus 7.7 percent for the comparison group.

It also found that Mooney pilots tended to perform better in stressed conditions, suggesting that the plane was easier than average to handle.

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